Scandals That Will Sadly Plague Top Chef Forever

Scandals That Will Sadly Plague Top Chef Forever


Bravo’s Top Chef has been on the air for 16
seasons, and over the years it’s definitely seen its fair share of drama. From reported wage theft to alleged assault,
here’s what scandals have the network saying, Please pack your knives, and go. Marcel Vigneron first appeared on Top Chef
season 2. And though it was clear from the beginning
that he was wildly talented, he’s been called the quote, “most-popular but least-liked contestant,”
per the Las Vegas Sun. But things got out of hand one night when
Vigneron and fellow chef’testants Ilan, Cliff, and Elia were left alone in their house on
the final night of filming, with just a handheld camera to record footage. “It was a stupid joke. What’s your ____ problem (punch)” Everyone’s story differs, but what the camera
showed was Cliff pinning Marcel to the ground in an attempt to forcibly shave Vigneron’s
head, while the others watched. Cliff put Vigneron in a full nelson, at which
point Vigneron was able to get away. “I’m like is this for real? Like what the ___ is going on right now.” Judge Tom Colicchio was so enraged by the
incident that he wanted to have all four of the participants in Marcel’s assault to be
sent home, which would have made Vigneron the winner by default. “We’re gonna have to ask you to leave.” Instead, producers intervened, and only Cliff
was sent home the next day. Mike Isabella was a contestant on season 6
of Top Chef and Top Chef All-Stars. The Washington, D.C.-area chef found a huge
amount of success after his appearance on the shows, opening 11 restaurants and managing
a staff of nearly 800 people. It seemed he was going to be a major Top Chef
success story — until he wasn’t. “It’s yes chef, no chef, or I don’t know
chef. There’s no other things that you should be
saying in a kitchen besides that.” Isabella’s new empire began to crumble in
2017, when a female manager claimed she was harassed by both Isabella and his business
partners, per The Atlantic. She claimed Isabella’s offences included inappropriate
comments, showing up to work drunk, and goading another chef into trying to sleep with her
— an event that she says led to Isabella firing her. She also said that two of his business partners
sent her illicit text messages, and that the group as a whole called her names, insulted
her, and touched her without permission. The case eventually settled, Isabella filed
for bankruptcy, and in December 2018, Isabella closed all of his Mike Isabella Concept restaurants. John Besh was a famous restaurateur in New
Orleans and head of the John Besh restaurant group when he appeared as a guest judge on
Top Chef Colorado in the 15th season of the show. The James Beard Award-winner had appeared
on several other cooking shows, wrote an award-winning cookbook, and was considered to be one of
the preeminent New Orleans chefs. But in between his Top Chef appearance being
filmed and the episode airing, scandal erupted. “Explosive allegations of sexual harassment
against celebrity chef John Besh and his restaurant group are now making national headlines.” Eater reported that 25 women came forward
with allegations that Besh had created a work environment in which harassment and assault
flourished. Former employee, Maggie Moore, who was fired
by Besh’s business partner, told Fox 8 News that she said at the time, “The reason that we’re here goes back to when
I wouldn’t have sex with John. And that is why I’m being fired right now. And the response that I got was, I’m sorry.” Soon after the news broke, Bravo made a statement
saying that they were evaluating Besh’s episode. Then, days after the series premiere, Bravo
announced that it would edit Besh out of the episode entirely. Chef Graham Elliot may have two Michelin stars
under his belt, but the charismatic cook and TV personality hasn’t always operated his
restaurant above board, according to a group of employees who sued him. “If it’s not broken, break it.” Elliot, who appeared on MasterChef and MasterChef
Jr. for a decade before becoming a judge on Top Chef in 2016, was sued in 2012 by 14 former
servers at his Chicago restaurant, who alleged that they were owed money due to unlawful
tip pooling, adding that Elliot was operating a quote “systemic scheme to deprive them of
regular and overtime compensation,” according to Eater. The employees were seeking back pay plus interest. The case was settled in the fall of 2012 with
Elliot paying an undisclosed sum to his former employees. “Alex the number one question we got for
this reunion: did you really steal Ed’s pea puree.” The infamous “Pea-gate” incident from Top
Chef season 7 isn’t just the most humorously named scandal the show has ever seen, but
also one of the most befuddling. “I’m gonna be absolutely fair and only think
about the food I’m not even gonna think about who’s cookin it.” Here’s what went down. Chef’testant Ed Cotton made a pea puree to
accompany a seafood dish. Then, somewhere between the prep kitchen and
the restaurant kitchen where they’d be preparing their meals for the challenge, Cotton’s puree
went missing. “Alex, did you see that pea puree? I did not.” At the same time, chef Alex Reznik suddenly
had a pea puree that he planned to feature in his dish, even though he had already been
shown on camera wondering what to serve with his salmon. The coincidence seemed almost too convenient,
especially when Cotton was forced to change his dish, and Reznik ended up winning that
week’s challenge. Season 9 winner Paul Qui had a great reputation
at one point. He was one of the most famous chefs in Austin,
Texas after nabbing a James Beard Award and winning Top Chef Texas. But Qui was not immune to scandal. “A popular Austin chef reportedly assaulted
his girlfriend” In 2016, the Washington Post reported Qui
was arrested for assault after his girlfriend alleged that he had gone on a violent, drug-fueled
rampage, during which he pushed her and her infant son and blocked them from escaping
the apartment, knocking over furniture, shelves, and tables, and causing her bodily harm. Qui made a statement saying that he was innocent
of the assault charges, but that he would be checking into rehab following the incident. The charges against Qui were eventually dropped
as the alleged victim stopped cooperating with the investigation, according to Eater. “That was a side of me I’ve never ever ever
seen… that I would have gotten that out of hand.” In the fallout, three of Qui’s restaurants
closed. These days, the chef is still getting work
and opening new businesses, but his successes are rarely noted without mention of this scandal. “It’s something that I own and that I have
to live with. You know, and it’s something that I have to
be responsible for.” When production is deciding where to film
a project, it’s not uncommon for them to seek out local film commissions and state governments
to receive tax benefits in exchange for bringing business to the state in question. But, according to Eater, when Top Chef started
filming in Texas, the production company’s techniques weren’t all above board. “It’s Texas, they made it bigger, this season’s
raising the level of intensity pretty fast.” There were rumors that production approached
several different cities — including Houston, Dallas, and Austin — and were trying to
negotiate a pay-to-play deal where they would shoot in a certain city in exchange for a
cash payout, selecting those cities who were willing to pay the most, rather than relying
on the traditional tax breaks. So, how much money, exactly, did Texas end
up paying the show? Officially, the state claimed it would cost
taxpayers nothing to have the show filmed in Texas, but, according to the Dallas Observer,
Governor Rick Perry’s office signed a statement agreeing to subsidize the show to the tune
of $400,000 in exchange for quote, “the integration of [the state’s] brand in Bravo’s production
of Top Chef cycle 9.” You expect the contestants on Top Chef to
be given some very unique ingredients to work with. After all, these cooks are pros, and if the
judges want to shake things up, they have to think outside of the box. “It’s not easy. And some of it’s nasty.” However, producers on Top Chef Canada may
have taken things a little too far when they had one chef use horse meat in a challenge
that asked contestants to make a traditional French dish. Apparently horse meat isn’t exactly popular
in Canada, according to HuffPost, but in the province of Quebec, you can find it at grocery
stores and butchers. More than 90,000 horses are slaughtered in
Canada each year for consumption. “Oh my God I’m going to vomit,” When news broke that an upcoming episode would
feature a chef cooking with horse meat, the internet erupted in protest. There was even a Facebook group that was joined
by more than 5,000 people. Top Chef Canada stood by their decision to
include horse meat on the show, saying via The Globe and Mail, “The challenge in this episode involves having
the competitors create a truly authentic, traditional French menu. One of the most traditional French foods is
horse meat.” When Top Chef moved to Boston for season 12,
they decided to use a non-union film crew. And according to Inside Edition, there are
two sides to what happened next. “The production company did not hire teamsters
drivers.” “Local union leaders tried to shut the show
down.” Having been passed over for the gig, a group
of four Boston teamsters said that they were on site that day simply picketing the Top
Chef crew to quote “protest against the abuse of the Massachusetts film tax credit” and
the fact that they were operating a non-union set. However, witnesses including Top Chef host
Padma Lakshmi herself said that they became aggressive and violent. “Least he knows I’m not a scab like you.” Lakshmi claims that the men came up to her
in her car and hissed at her, with one saying, quote, “I’ll smash your pretty little face,”
while others alleged that the teamsters yelled profanities, slashed the tires of vehicles
being used by the crew, and were chest bumping crew members in a threatening way as they
arrived to set. The incident was just one of several being
looked at to determine whether Mayor Marty Walsh’s office had inappropriate ties with
organized labor in the city, with one city employee claiming he pulled the permits for
Top Chef in order to pressure them to use members of a local union on their film crew. Judge Tom Colicchio has long been an advocate
for fair labor, an activist in the realm of food insecurity, and is generally considered
to be a “good guy” in the restaurant industry. But even he isn’t immune to scandal. “Whether you’re a chef, whether you’re a porter,
whether you’re a server, you have to have sort of a desire to really care for people.” According to Take Part, in 2015, Colicchio’s
‘wichcraft sandwich chain was sued for allegedly distributing tips unfairly, resulting in workers
getting paid less than minimum wage, as well as not paying employees adequately for working
overtime. Even delivery people for the chain claimed
that they weren’t fairly compensated for the time it took them to change in and out of
their uniform, and they were paid for fewer hours than they reported working. This wasn’t the first time that Colicchio
has come under fire for labor practices. His restaurant Craftbar settled a lawsuit
out of court with employees who alleged that their tips were being garnished and that they
weren’t getting paid minimum wage. Colicchio denied the allegations, though he
did say that the situation should be investigated fairly and that his employees should be taken
seriously, noting that state minimum wage regulations can make paying tipped employees
more complicated than it seems. Jeff McInnis and Janine Booth both competed
on Top Chef, and eventually even opened a restaurant together in New York called Root
& Bone. But unfortunately, scandal shadowed the entire
enterprise. “Working together and how to work together,
and maybe how not to work together…we’ve learned a lot.” The Miami Herald reported McInnis’s ex-wife
claimed that McInnis and Booth had been having an affair, and that he pressured her into
a divorce so that he could move to New York with Booth. She also alleged that McInnis left his previous
job because his business partner wanted to run a family company, and McInnis’s philandering
didn’t fit in. Nevertheless, McInnis and Booth opened Root
& Bone, which debuted with much fanfare and positive reviews. But according to Eater, things soured when
the duo was sued by their business partner, who alleged that they lied about the restaurant’s
profits and embezzled over $280,000 from the restaurant, supposedly using it to renovate
the apartment above the restaurant where they lived, and to hold a pop-up restaurant in
Puerto Rico. The scandal eventually blew over, and McInnis
and Booth got engaged on the set of The Chew in 2018. Both also still work at the successful Root
& Bone. Viewers of Top Chef might be shocked upon
revisiting season 1 when they realize that Katie Lee, not the now-iconic Padma, was the
show’s first host. “Good evening everyone, I’m Katie Lee Joel.” Lee wasn’t exactly praised for her performance
on the show, with viewers calling her robotic and wooden. After a single season, Andy Cohen announced
that Lee was leaving the show to quote “pursue other opportunities.” Later, in his 2012 memoir, Cohen would recount
how Lee would get so nervous on set and feel so guilty about having to send contestants
home that her pounding heartbeat could be heard through her mic. “So go home, enjoy your first night in the
house. For one of you, it will be your last.” Lee was replaced by Lakshmi, who hosted the
next 15 seasons of the show. But Lee didn’t disappear completely. “I’m Katie Lee and I eat meat in sweats.” She’s now a co-host of Food Network’s The
Kitchen, has appeared on Food Network shows like the Halloween Baking Championship, Meat
Sweats, Beat Bobby Flay, and Rachel Ray. She also has her own show on the Cooking Channel
show called Beach Bites with Katie Lee. Lee is also a cookbook author and novelist. Check out one of our newest videos right here! Plus, even more Mashed videos about your favorite
cooking shows are coming soon. Subscribe to our YouTube channel and hit the
bell so you don’t miss a single one.

100 thoughts on “Scandals That Will Sadly Plague Top Chef Forever”

  1. They scouted that annoying Padma sheep, Fatima to save Padma’s bigotry about excluding Arabs on the show! Terrible how annoyed and humiliated Padma was towards her during Restaurant Wars S15

  2. Wait people got upset for not being paid to switch in and out of their uniforms? You're suppose to show up to work with your uniform on and take it off when you get back home

  3. lmao imagine getting this opportunity, flourishing and then throwing it all way because you're a douchey waste of space. tragic 😂😂😂

  4. Top Chef is not a government agency so it's not "pay to play." Charging cities for tourism advertising is perfectly legal. Cities pay to advertise for tourism.

  5. wowwww some massive anti labor bs in this one. don't cross picket lines and don't be a scab, people. unions are the ones fighting for fair wages, weekends, vacation days, sick days, maternity/paternity leave, safety regulations, etc.

  6. I'm from Boston – born and bred – and was not surprised by the whole Teamsters thing…but WAS embarrassed and angered by it. Not a union fan.

  7. Its fucking horse meat who gives a fucking shit… Jesus Christ are you kidding me, it is meat and horses are just as dumb as fucking cows if not dumber.. who gives a shit… For fucks sake horse tacos sound fucking amazing to me…

  8. My top scandal for this show was when they had a challenge at the Plantation and the only black guy was sent home and his dish was'nt even the worst TBh.

  9. Hey Qui, it’s not something that you have to live with you dumb fucking coward. You could have killed your girlfriend and her baby. Go fuck yourself.

  10. It’s really sad to see so many of these talented men and their careers destroyed by allegations and lies from the sluts they hired. I think every male business owner in this era has to seriously consider whether hiring women is worth the risk.

  11. all that trivial garbage, and not one word about Bobby Flay and Giada? Really? Nothing about Mario Batali, either. Are you on Food Network's payroll?

  12. Restaurants and Food Service establishments are breeding grounds for harassment. With the popularity of Gordon Ramsay's T.V. shows and the like, people think the only way to become successful at restaurant stuff is to harass others, or be harassed yourself. Then, if people can't handle the psychological and emotional consequences of being treated like garbage for 12 hours a day; somehow they are failures?

  13. Look what happens when America goes crazy with a progressive Liberal agenda, of course someone fires you for not banging them… Sure.. Fucking joke that just doesn't happen.

  14. Notice a pattern with this… Woman shouts harrasment… Settles silently because there weak then the actual life of the bloke is tarnished by hear say… Bullshit facter.

  15. SO THE BIGGEST THIS IF YOU WANT TO KEEP YOU RESTAURANT HIGHER ALL MEN AND NEVER HIGHER WOMAN BECAUSE THEY WILL SUE YOU OR SAY YOU SEXUALLY HARASSED OR ASSAULTED THEM AND IN THE LIBERAL COURTS WHERE MOST THESE PLACES ARE THE WOMAN WILL WIN NO MATTER IF IT TRUE OR NOT… SO I CAN TELL YOU IF A GROUP OF WOMAN GET TOGETHER AND DECIDED THEY ARE GOING TO SUE YOU FOR NO REASON OTHER THANT THEY WANT MONEY YOU JUST BETTER FILE BANKRUPTCY OR MOVE YOU MONEY TO ANOTHER COUNTRY B4 THEY CASE IS OVER OR THE WOMAN WILL GET ALL YOUR MONEY

  16. we still kill horses in America we just can eat them hear but yes Canada in mainly the french city's they eat horse meat and yea its normal …It is weird to USA people but its just meat at the end of the day ..Humans are just meat to aliens

  17. The best part of masterchef was when contestants were on a beach and 2 of the three pro chefs arrived while one lardy lad was on beach cause im assuming the jetski would have been incapable of staying together if he slothered on it lmfao!!!

  18. Not sure why horse meat isn’t okay, I can go down the street here in Peterborough and buy some.
    Many Dutch markets sell it.

  19. Katie lee sucked, big time, so I dont know how that's a scandal, she just wasn't good at the job. The root and bone one was laughable, and settling out of court isnt admission of guilt, it's often to stop negative publicity. I was expecting scandals made by the show, not a series of post production character flaws. Yea chefs do drugs, say inappropriate things, and make mistakes, I fail to see how that's a scandal, they are people like everyone else. This was pretty dumb.

  20. I understand the uproar about horse meat being included in one of the episodes, but I think that same standard should be applied to pork and beef. All of these animals are intelligent and affectionate and deserve to live.

  21. Why is horse meat a no-no but cow meat, and especially pig meat, is not? Either allow all meat, or none. Pigs are as smart as dogs, but eating them is fine. We learn more and more about the amazing abilities of octopuses, but still consume them, too. Nothing about horses earns them special treatment, until that special treatment is applied equally and consistently.

  22. This seems to be quite a stretch for viewers. I'm not sure what these scandals of chefs have to do with Top Chef directly.

  23. In America we don't slaughter healthy horses, but when we do have to put a horse down, we sell the meat to other countries.

  24. It is pretty apparent that becoming a Male Chef is their way of compensating for their inability to get laid. Sadly, after having become Male Chefs, they still had to resort to raping because they still couldn’t get laid.

  25. Cliff: assaults dude
    Guy: "we're gonna have to ask you to leave."
    Cliff: surprised Pikachu face

    What's the difference between horse meat and any other meat? My Dutch ancestors ate smoked horse meat.
    Also, how is being nervous a scandal for the last one?

  26. Wow so all they had to do was hire a hooker and it all wouldve been ok plz people DONT SHIT WHERE YOU EAT remember that and your life will be great

  27. I don’t believe 90% or even more about these whiny women. They are cashing in on abusing the system to make easy money. If real proof can not be offered then it didn’t happen.

  28. Yeah slaughtering horses is disturbing, but so is the slaughter of any other animal. I don’t understand this social construct of “sure beef is fine, but I would never eat a horse” etc. They are all animals of prey. They are all vulnerable.

  29. They didn’t get paid for changing in and out of their uniform? Seriously?
    Who gets paid for getting into and out of uniform?

  30. 400K for advertisement all season long, A season where people all over the world can see what a state has to offer, and one that can be watched anytime…. that is hell cheap for advertisement. Kardashians get 100 to 200K per Instagram post alone. What top chef offered in exchange for state wide tourism is an amazing deal.

  31. My girlfriend used to clean a very famous celeb chef’s house until he tried to make a move on her unexpectedly. She slapped the shit out of him. He’s married with kids and my girlfriend no longer talks or cleans for him following the incident. I can see how a lot of them are pieces of 💩.

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